Michelle Howden

Michelle speaking to Maryborough Correctional Centre staff on International Women’s Day.

Michelle speaking to Maryborough Correctional Centre staff on International Women’s Day.

Michelle (Shelly) Howden is a Butchulla and Woppaburra woman who is a mother of four and a grandmother to one. Culturally, Shelly is a mother and grandmother to many more. She comes from a long line of strong women who not only fought for gender equality but also had to fight for equality based on their race.

Motivated by strong female role models that include her Aunty Rene, Shelly’s eyes were opened up to a greater world, and the importance that education can play in one’s life. Aunty Rene was the trailblazer in her family and became the first Aboriginal teacher on Palm Island, even going on to achieve a Master of Education. This inspired Shelly to be the first member of her own family to graduate Year 12.

Wanting more, Shelly started her career in the Federal Government and later as a student to graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Indigenous Community Management. Now with the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships as a Senior Project Officer, Shelly contributes to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people every day.

“My career in the federal and now state government has spanned over 22 years,” Shelly said.

“I’ve had the opportunity to act in various management roles and I have the aspiration to become a Regional Director, but my accomplishments have not come easy.”

Away from her career, Shelly was a victim of domestic and family violence, which impacted on her self-esteem, confidence, wellbeing and at times, even her ability to function or attend work, which culminated in a life changing event late in 2017.

Shelley shared her courageous story with Maryborough Correctional Centre staff on International Women’s Day recently.

“With my partners I made some bad choices which resulted in lack of support and decades of domestic violence.

“I always had to be mindful and consider any work business that took me away from the family home, even if it was just for a night.”

But with the support of her family, colleagues and workplace, Shelly has come out of the experience a wiser person and feels that she can still achieve so much more.

“Like many women in the same situation, I also say I am a full-time mother and full-time worker, but I do it all in part-time hours as there are never enough hours in the day… ordinary women do extraordinary things every day.”

Motivated by female leaders within her own department and those within government, Shelly continues to press for progress, something her Aunty Rene will be very proud of.